An Open Letter To Rachel Dolezal

Dear Rachel Dolezal,

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t waiting for an apology. Not because you can’t identify as a black woman or can’t feel particularly vested in black culture, but because it is likely that your actions and decisions have hurt and offended people of color, specifically women of color. The gall of you to finally make a statement and then disgorge responses that  were clearly homegrown on a farm of entitlement and white privilege. Let’s get a few things clear Rachel. Although you are a scholar and professor, you seem to have conveniently confused racial indeterminacy, the understanding that individuals can have multiple racial identities and race is not a fixed variable, and racial misrepresentation. Rachel, racial misrepresentation is theft; cultural theft to be exact.

It took no time at all for the good people of twitter to talk about black privilege, noting that black privilege must exist since you decided to become a black woman. I’m convinced that black privilege is a myth and I could be wrong, but I know that white privilege is alive and well. It is white privilege that helped you, as a white woman to feel entitled and empowered to claim blackness as your identity. You appropriate from black culture, and pose as a black woman fighting for the oppressed, while gaining access to prominence.

Your dishonesty devalues and erodes the experiences of those who actually did struggle growing up as people of color. You missed your calling to be an ally; correction, you declined your calling to be an ally. Instead, you used your privilege to assimilate and appropriate black culture. Growing up with black friends and adopted siblings does not constitute as growing up black.  You did not look this way as a child and you cannot recall genuine memories and experiences growing up black. You lied to propel your career forward and in doing so you occupied the platforms for REAL black women to share their authentic stories. Stories like mine. Tell me Rachel, how often did your peers accuse you of “acting white”? And unlike Jeff Humphrey, “I don’t understand the question.” will not suffice as an answer for me. I have spent much of my life defending my blackness. The label of “acting white” has been a social and academic mobility barrier for black people all over the US. If I speak in an educated and eloquent way I am “acting white.” So tell me Rachel, growing up how often was your intelligence and academic ambition a wager of cultural and racial exile?

You can identify as you please but also recognize that your actions minimize and trivialize the experiences of black women.  To add another layer to chaos, #transracial was trending on twitter and some began to erroneously equate the transracial experience with that of transgender. Yup, conservative commentators found themselves “caping” for you, claiming hypocrisy, since there was large acceptance of Caitlyn Jenner as a woman, but not for you as a black woman. Please note how your actions have distorted and regress identities that are already marginalized. I could go on and on about this but I won’t. I’m patiently waiting for you to “clarify that with the black community.”

Sincerely,

A legitimate African American (or as you prefer, black woman)


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